Manganese Rich Diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
The trace mineral manganese is vital for many enzymatic processes in the body, aiding the utilization of choline and activating enzymes needed for the absorption of biotin, thiamine, and ascorbic acid.
Manganese is a catalyst in the formation of cholesterol and other fatty acids as well as playing an important role in protein, carbohydrate, and fat digestion.
Manganese is important for the formation of breast milk in lactating mothers and to maintain sex hormone production. Manganese helps to nourish the nerves and brain and is essential in the formation of thyroxine in the thyroid.
The highest concentrations of manganese are found in the kidneys, liver, pancreas, pituitary gland, brain, and the bones. Very high doses of manganese can block the absorption and utilization of iron, which can be a good thing in iron overload conditions, but not so good otherwise. Manganese can also help to lower copper levels where there is an excess of copper.
High levels of manganese from excess supplementation or industrial exposure can result in symptoms of weakness, respiratory symptoms, psychological and motor difficulties, irritability and impotence.
Copper is a manganese antagonist (blocks absorption). B vitamins, especially B12, folate (B9) and B6 as well as iron, are essential to support the correct balance of manganese levels. Manganese along with zinc is effective to increase copper excretion in the body.
Deficiency of manganese can affect glucose tolerance, resulting in difficulty to remove excess sugar from the blood, and can therefore be linked to diabetes. Atherosclerosis can be linked to a manganese deficiency and low manganese can be a factor in triggering some epileptic seizures. Tardive dyskinesia, a type of neuromuscular disease, requires additional manganese as well as B group vitamins.
Poor muscle coordination, paralysis, convulsions, blindness, deafness in infants, dizziness, ear noises and loss of hearing can also be linked with manganese deficiency.
Manganese deficiency and toxicity risks
Although not a common deficiency, low levels of manganese can lead to bone loss, muscle and joint pain and changes in mood.
Manganese deficiency is usually caused by a lack of manganese rich foods in the diet and by chronic digestive disorders that make it hard to absorb nutrients such as manganese.
Manganese deficiency symptoms
- changes in digestion and appetite
- hormonal imbalances
- impaired glucose sensitivity
- weak bones (osteoporosis)
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- low immunity, frequently getting sick
- worsening symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- impaired reproductive abilities or infertility
Too much manganese can pose a threat in utero or during developmental years when the brain is still forming. Excessive accumulation in the central nervous system can cause birth defects and cognitive problems, but there is generally a low risk of this happening.
Supports bones and helps prevent osteoporosis
Manganese, in combination with calcium, vitamin D, boron, zinc and copper, can help reduce bone loss and help prevent osteoporosis especially in menopausal women. Manganese deficiency poses a risk for bone related disorders because manganese supports bone regulatory hormones and enzymes involved in bone metabolism. Manganese also helps to form important enzymes related to bone formation, such as glycosyltransferases and xylosyltransferases.
Supports antioxidant and enzyme function
Manganese is used in many important enzyme pathways, including arginase, glutamine synthetise, superoxide dismutase and manganese superoxide that all work as antioxidants in the body, helping to lower levels of oxidative stress and inflammation that can lead to heart disease or cancer.
Superoxide dismutase is sometimes called the ‘master antioxidant’ because it is very powerful at reducing inflammation, pain and bodily stress that can lead to numerous chronic diseases. Superoxide dismutase (SODs) is the only enzyme capable of eradicating superoxide radicals, making them valuable for slowing the process of aging and prolonging health. Without manganese, we would not have enough of this valuable antioxidant.
Helps support cognitive function and memory
The synaptic vesicles in the brain require manganese to regulate the electrical activity of the brain’s neurons that control cognitive function. Because manganese affects synaptic neurotransmission, a manganese deficiency can make people more prone to mental illness, mood changes, learning disabilities and even epilepsy.
Helps to prevent diabetes
Manganese is required by the body to produce the digestive enzymes responsible for a process called gluconeogenesis which helps balance the glucose levels within the blood. Manganese has been shown to help prevent overly high blood sugar levels that can contribute to diabetes. For this reason, adequate manganese may help to prevent diabetes.
Supports respiratory health
Manganese, along with other minerals like zinc and selenium, help lower inflammation and oxidative stress through the production of SODs. This makes manganese a useful mineral for those who need lung healing support with conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma and smoking induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory disorders.
Helps to prevent arthritis
Manganese has been shown to help reduce pain in the knees and the lower back, so regularly eating high manganese foods may help to reduce inflammation in the joints and tissues.
Helps to reduce PMS symptoms
Consuming plenty of manganese and calcium rich foods can help improve PMS symptoms such as tenderness, mood swings, muscle pain, anxiety and sleeping difficulties. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that women who have low levels of manganese in their blood experienced more pain and mood-related symptoms during the pre-menstrual phase of their cycle than those with good levels of manganese.
Helps to prevent infertility
Manganese helps to regulate hormone and antioxidant activity, so it is important to ensure adequate supply of this vital mineral for good fertility support.
Manganese helps support digestive enzymes to function optimally, ensuring that the compounds found in food will be turned into useable nutrients and energy within the body.
As with all nutrients, it’s always best to get enough manganese from whole foods whenever possible. Whole foods contain the proper mix of different vitamins and minerals that work to balance each other.
This list provides the recommended daily levels of micrograms/milligrams of manganese for different age groups and genders. Then following is a list of foods rich in manganese. By using the lists together, you can calculate what foods you need to maintain the daily allowance.
- Infants up to 6 months: need 300mcg
- 7 to 12 months: need 600mcg
- 1 to 3 years: need 1.2mg
- 4 to 8 years: need 1.5mg
- Boys 9 to 13 years: need 1.9mg
- Boys 14 to 18 years: need 2.2mg
- Girls 9 to 18 years: need 1.6mg
- Men age 19 and older: need 2.3mg
- Women 19 and older: need 1.8mg
- Pregnant women age 14 to 50: need 2mg
- Breastfeeding women: need 2.6mg
- Brown Rice (cooked): 1 cup = 2.1mg
- Amaranth (cooked): 1 cup = 2.1mg
- Hazelnuts: ½ cup = 3.9mg
- Adzuki Beans (cooked): 1 cup = 1.3mg
- Chickpeas/Garbanzo (cooked): 1 cup = 1.2mg
- Macadamia Nuts: ½ cup = 2.6mg
- White Beans (cooked): 1 cup = 1.1mg
- Black Beans (cooked): 1 cup = 0.7mg
- Buckwheat (cooked): 1 cup = 0.6mg
Other good sources of manganese are found in egg yolks, nuts, seeds, pineapples, legumes, and green vegetables.
Because it is relatively easy to obtain sufficient manganese from your diet, manganese supplementation is not normally required, except under special circumstances. It is definitely best prescribed by a health professional trained in nutrient therapy.
Before you commence your diet, see your medical or health care professional for qualified guidance about what foods and supplements are best for your body. While on the diet do not stop any medications or supplements previously prescribed unless advised otherwise by your medical or health care professional.
During the early stages of a new diet, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, or body aches, which may occur because your body is detoxifying. However, if you are unsure about a symptom at any time, check immediately with your medical or health care professional.